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#10- Amy Heffernan, acoustic trio at Molly Malone's, 5-20-09


Headed down to Molly's for an acoustic set last night with Amy and her brother Doug.  Click here for some previous info and thoughts on her upcoming record "Being Awesome", which is now less than a week away from mastering and we're all very excited about it.  Although Doug is still working on mixes frantically and I still owe him a redo on a bass track that I'm hoping to do this Saturday morning.  

Acoustification
It's always interesting to come up with acoustic arrangements for tunes that were written and recorded with the whole "electrified rock band" thing in mind.  In this trio setup, Amy was playing the meat of the song, the rhythm parts, Doug was doing more of the motifs and color parts and I obviously held down the bottom end.  I do have some extra freedom to get outside the lines a bit and keep things interesting in this format, which is always fun.  Also more of an obligation to help out with the time keeping since there ain't no drummer doing that for us.   Amy and Doug both have good time though, so that part of it was groovy.   We ended up locking in pretty well for the most part   It really makes ya listen to everyone when you don't have a drummer back there slamming out the time for you. 

Takin' it Eeeeea-sy
We also chose to add some harmonies that aren't on the record to blend in that whole 70's-ish, 3-part texture in some spots.  Doug and I took turns singing the main harmony part, depending on who had the more difficult instrumental thing happening, and we added in the third parts whenever we could manage.  Good times to sing with a brother and sister who have a natural synchronicity to their phrasing and voices in general.   I was trying my best to blend, back off the microphone, find the sweet spot in my monitor.  Found the low parts tougher than the high ones to slip in properly, which is typical for me.  Felt like I sang well last night and so did the Heffs, we got our Eagles on nicely from where I sat.  

Nothing Like the Last Minute!
So the show was on a Wednesday night and we had very little time for the three of us to get together and prep.  We did one rehearsal on Monday night to get the arrangements straight and another on the day of the show to get it tight.  Since we had new arrangements and a couple songs we'd never performed before, there was plenty of work to do in between to get the details hammered out.  I put the set list onto an itunes playlist and listened to it over and over again on my ipod.  WISH I'd made recordings of us doing the actual arrangements on Monday night cause I ended up having to listen to the album tracks and superimposing the acoustic versions in my head.  I have a Zoom hand-held recorder that is perfect for exactly these scenarios but I forgot to bring it on Monday.  Grrrr.  

I played well, but did feel slightly underrehearsed up there.  Hit a couple bad notes, felt a little unsure in a few spots but covered pretty smoothly I thought.  It was mostly a singing thing, there is a lot more involved when I'm singing on almost every song.  A few minor bass flubs too, but I used an old trick that I'll share; if you make a mistake, DO IT AGAIN.  Makes it seem like you did it on purpose.  Maybe that's stupid but I've been doing it for twenty years and I pulled that one out of the hat twice last night.  Always makes me feel better, even if no one in the audience is fooled or is actually paying attention to the bass notes.  

Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics
Turns out the biggest challenge was getting the lyrics straight for the chorus of a new tune called "I Can't Wait".  The funny part is I wrote most (but not all) of these particular lyrics but that didn't help the memorization process at all.  It's a feel good, drinking-by-the-campfire-sing-along-style, 3 Chord Charlie kinda tune that was supposed to be easy but strangely has been a bit of a struggle (both for getting parts figured out and also getting the live performance straight).  I've written before about tracking this bass line (here), and it's simple, but needs to be a certain way to get the right sense of motion, especially in the chorus.  It's mostly a country-ish 1-5-4-1 progression and I do these subtle walking bits that really work but make it tough to sing harmony on the wordy chorus and nail the part.  I practiced this in my car for a couple days and wrote the words down so I could keep drilling it.  In fact, here are the chorus lyrics so you can play along at home...

We'll be having a good time, under the sunshine
drinkin' some cold beer, out on the south pier
letting our hair down, crankin' the tunes out
digging our toes into the sand
having some real fun, right by the ocean
makin' some memories, doin' what we please
getting a good buzz, worries behind us
givin' the real world a day off
and I Can't Wait.

I ended up using the written down cheat-sheet for the gig.  Kept screwing them up whilst rehearsing and just finally gave in to The Paper Solution.  Worked like a charm, always does for lyrical issues, that's a fallback I've used many, many times for these types of wordy occasions.  

Gear
It was Molly's, so the dreaded house bass rig was in effect.  Not so bad in this case cause we were rockin' it gently, no need for crazy volume.  Pumped some signal into the monitors which is always the right call at this club.  Brought the P-Bass and full pedalboard too.  I've been bringing the pedals along for everything lately, even if I don't plan on stomping on distortions or wahs or synths or anything nutty like that.  I like to have the EQ options at multiple stages (Sansamp, Boss Bass EQ, Radial Bassbone), plus the tuner is all hooked up, AND if I feel like stepping on something whacky I have the option.  

Toning it in
The P-bass was singing nicely on this gig!  I got in a good ten minutes of fidgeting with EQ settings and rolling in the right amount of grit.  No need to push tons of air for this acoustic setting, so it was pretty easy to dial in what I wanted.  Ended up sounded real good all night, allowed me to play well, get some subtleties happening between the notes, feel connected to the instrument.  Good balance of bark and clarity.  Did some high octave fingerstyle melodies in a couple tunes (Blame Me, The Word), played some fast pick stuff in a couple others (Knowing, Being Awesome), it was a good variety of techniques and a solid playing night for Mr. Fussy-About-His-Tone-Guy.  

Setlist
Without You, Over Again, I Do, I Can't Wait, The Word, Blame Me, Just Dance, Knowing, Being Awesome.  

The Unbearable Awesomeness of Being
"Being Awesome" went over like gangbusters.  Everyone was singing along even though it was the official unveiling of the tune so only a couple people had heard it before.  I got several comments along the lines of "That is a freaking hit song" after the show.  Always a good thing.  I tend to agree, it's a pretty great party-anthem kinda tune.  The hook is "Right now, I'm just a drink away, from being awesome", in kind of a Green Day meets Pink sorty rock-swing marchy vibe.  It was the last song the three of us wrote for the record and it's probably going to be the title track.  

Covers
We rocked the Lady Gaga tune "Just Dance", which is fun as hell to play.  Here's a link to us playing it with the full band at our previous gig at Molly's.  That's the fabulous Ryan Brown on drums!  The acoustic arrangement was different, no crazy bass synth stuff.  Also, we did a brief intro to "I Do" with the lyrics to Kim Carnes song "Betty Davis Eyes" in three part  harmony.  It was spooky and moody and weird and fun.  Thinking about adding that some day as a full song instead of a one minute intro.  

Photoshop

I've been wanting to take more photos for this here blog, so I just ordered a cheap Canon digital camera from Amazon.  Hoping it's really user friendly and I can hand it to strangers at gigs and have them point and click a few useable shots.  Plus it's orange, which is cool (here's looking at you Jeef Cleek wherever you are).  I've managed to get some great shots on occasion from friends, usually Brian Honda or Kirsten, and actually I've gone back and updated some past entries if you want to scroll down and see photos from the events that weren't up the day I posted the blogs.  I'll continue to do that, back-tagging with appropriate photos.  If any of you are ever at a show and take some shots, PLEASE fire them my way at sinjingiles@yahoo.com!  

Also wanted a camera so I can do some cool stuff like photograph some of my gear, pedalboard, setlists, cheatsheets, that kinda stuff, might be interesting additions to these posts.  For me anyway :).   SOMEONE was taking pictures last night and I think Kirsten made contact so hopefully I'll eventually have shots from this show to add to the post.  

Oh Yeah, Can't Forget a Grade
This is a tough one.  There have been several thoughtful comments from y'all (both verbal and digital) that I'm being too hard on myself and that my grading system is all jacked up.  I maintain that the A's need to be elusive and that I know them when they happen, even if I can't describe the requirements very eloquently.  This one was close.  I did hit some bad notes that were tough to hide in this exposed trio environment.  I also did feel just a smidge underrehearsed, particularly with the singing and playing simultaneously thing.  But I played well despite that.  I think I'd be happy to hear an isolated recording of the bass from last night, or even a recording of the three of us.   The tone was good.  I was in tune, the pocket was happening, it was really fun.  Sang well too.  Fine, there it is, I'm going to say A-.  Whew.  That's my first A grade since I started blogging about these shows.  

Some Quick Parting Props For Amy
Amy will be leaving us soon to head back up to Canada and promote her new record.  She'll be gigging and touring and working radio and networking and doing all the things it takes to make it in this business and I'm fired up for her chances of success!  She's a really talented artist who is willing to dive in all the way and I'm 100% rooting for to find the magic formula that makes it all work in a huge way.  Good luck Amy, we'll miss you down here!

Next Up
The Cherry Bluestorms in two weeks at Skinny's in The Valley.  In the meanwhile I've got plenty of rehearsing, recording and even a mastering session happening.  Might dive into some blogification on one of the non-gig events, who knows.  

If you're reading this from the Myspace or Facebook posts and want to be added to the mailing list, let me know at sinjingiles.com and I'll make sure you get the regular, direct, annoying emailed links.  

Thanks for reading, talk soon,
-s




Comments

(Anonymous)

Hi Steve! I was planning on coming to this show and I was bummed that I couldn't. So you have a bassbone too! I love mine!
I like what you said about mistakes, I am gonna try it next time...
Keep on the groove!!
see ya :)